Jordan Northrup has served in the United States Marine Corps from August 2003 to the present. During that time, he commanded at the platoon and company level, served as special and primary staff, and as an action and liaison officer as well. In 2015, he transferred from active duty to the USMC Reserves and continues to support the Marine Corps as a Federal Civilian employee, stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He holds the rank of Major.

Jordan sat down with the Stuttering Foundation to discuss his unique experience of bravely facing the challenge of stuttering in the military.

Did stuttering have any bearing on your decision to join the military?
I was born with a stutter; it’s always been with me. In 2003, my college grades were poor, and I didn’t have any real career prospects ahead of me. Rather than studying, I had fallen into the party scene because I wanted to be cool and accepted. I lacked confidence and trained myself to sit in the back of the room and stay quiet. Despite my failures, I had enough foresight to know that I needed a change, and I needed it fast. Several friends of mine were joining the military, and they encouraged me to come with them and find out more. I spoke with some Marine Corps recruiters and made the decision that joining would give me the tools I needed to turn my life around.

Before joining, did you have any concerns about how your stutter would impact your ability to serve?
Naturally, I was nervous about how my stutter would impact my ability to serve. Up until that time in my life, I’d made it my mission to make myself invisible, at least as it related to school. I knew that joining the military would push me into uncomfortable situations and experiences.

Did you discuss your stutter with superiors or fellow service members when you first began serving? Were you teased?
During the recruiting process, I did discuss my stutter with my recruiting team. I had no knowledge or experience to speak of, so I leaned heavily on their advice. They told me that my stutter would create challenges, but nothing that I couldn’t overcome. While I was nervous about bootcamp, I knew I needed a significant change in my life; it was worth the risk.

Surviving basic training (bootcamp) with a stutter is no joke. Most of the time, I was able to get through each day without too much trouble. No one “talks” in bootcamp...they shout, and shout in unison. When the drill instructor gives a command, the entire platoon shouts “Aye Sir” at the top of their lungs. Those situations were easy for me. Things got difficult when the situation would require me to speak individually. Each morning we woke up and lined up in front of our beds (racks) so the drill instructor could get a visual and verbal count. The count would start on one end of the squad bay, with each recruit shouting the next number in the sequence. I was number 56. Each morning I could feel the block building in my throat. Sometimes I was able to shout fluently, other times not.

Once the drill instructors found a weakness in you, it became a focal point. As soon as the drill instructors realized I had a stutter, they would make me stand alone at the front of the squad bay and read something aloud so all the recruits could hear me stutter; they knew it would be embarrassing.

I think the worst experience I ever had was during Officer Candidate School in 2005. I had already been an enlisted Marine for two years by then, but I wanted to become an officer. The course is 10 weeks of intense training and scrutiny. In a sense, it’s a 10-week job interview. I was in Second Platoon with about 30 guys. Each week, we had to write evaluations on our peers. These evaluations were private documents that the instructors used to gain more insight on the candidates. What we didn’t know was at the end of the 10-week course, we would be offered the chance to read what people had said about us...rather than calling them “peer evaluations,” we termed them “spear evaluations.”

As I read what my peers had written about me, several entries stood out. One of my peers wrote, “Candidate Northrup should be denied a commission in the USMC because he can’t talk straight.” For 10 weeks, I had thought this guy was my friend, but it turns out he wasn’t. And he wasn’t the only one who wrote things like that about me. I’ve never forgotten that. Reading comments like that was very hurtful, even if they had no real power. Like the rest of us, I was granted a commission and have served faithfully since then. I made it a point to perform to the best of my ability. In fact, when it came time for my peer group to be promoted to the rank of Captain, I was meritoriously promoted a year ahead of my entire group. I felt like justice had been served.

Did you try to hide your stutter, or did you stutter openly? How did others react?
I’ve never been one to hide my stutter; at the same time, I’ve never openly disclosed it either. I go about my duties and if I stutter, then I stutter. Marines make of it what they will. I will say that all the Marines I’ve worked with have been very professional. If one of them has a negative opinion about my stutter, they’ve kept it to themselves. To a Marine, what’s important is mission accomplishment and troop welfare. I would add to that personal performance. Outstanding performance covers a multitude of sins. Over the years, I’ve made it a point to perform to the best of my ability such that any negativity surrounding my stutter is downplayed.

How did your stutter make it difficult for you to serve?
Like with any situation in life, not being able to communicate as clearly as you’d like takes its toll. In my head, I know what I want to say, but my body doesn’t always cooperate. My stutter is much harder to manage when I’m facing periods of stress, fear, physical exhaustion, or frustration. As you can imagine, all those factors are present at one point or another, sometimes together. Whether the situation is briefing an operation to senior officials, conducting a combat operation during deployment, or participating in a working group, the stressors are real and present. I can remember one such experience during my first combat deployment. I was commanding a convoy in the Al-Anbar province of Iraq. During the convoy, we came under intense enemy fire. As the Marine officer in charge, command and control was my responsibility. I had to organize our defenses and our response, use the radio to communicate with my higher headquarters, and assess several Marines for medical evacuation. All of that required me to speak constantly on the radio until the situation was resolved. Stuttering at a time like that was less than ideal, but I strove to remain calm and collected as I passed information and orders. After the situation was resolved, we were able to continue the mission with no loss of life.

Another example is from later in my career. I was attending a working group with peers and senior officers to develop certain logistical concepts. During a meeting like this, it is customary to go around the room one at a time and introduce yourself. I’m sure you can imagine the stress something like this would cause for a person who stutters. I was near the end of the line with about 30 Marines ahead of me. I watched the “moment” get closer and closer. I got into my own head and ended up with a mild panic attack. Finally, it was my turn and I squeaked out my name and role while stuttering heavily. It was incredibly embarrassing. No one said anything, but I can imagine what the others in the room thought. During a situation like this, I’ve found it helpful to quickly get through the embarrassment and then contribute as much to the conversation as possible. This way, the last impression I leave will be one of competence rather than stuttering.

Was your stutter ever helpful?
I can’t think of a time when my stutter was helpful, other than it made me practice public speaking often. As a Marine Corps officer, you are expected to speak aloud on any number of occasions. You may be speaking extemporaneously while addressing your troops after a training event, you may be passing information during a unit staff meeting, or you may be onstage presenting a new concept to a large audience. Whatever the situation, you’re expected to be “on.” As a person who stutters, it’s easy for me to get stuck when speaking aloud. I’ve found that extra preparedness significantly increases my ability to speak fluently.

Did you use any tips or tricks to help you with your stutter?
I don’t have any tricks per se. I would offer that excessive preparation for speaking events pays dividends. I do a lot of public speaking, whether it’s for my Marine Corps career, or being on stage for my book. I rehearse what I’m going to say as often as I can, so when I’m on stage, the material is very familiar to me. The less my mind has to search for what to say, the more fluent I can be.

As my career has progressed, I stutter less in the day-to-day environment. I believe this is because I’m more experienced and comfortable in my professional environment. When I do stutter, it’s usually during a larger meeting or presentation where I know I’ll have to speak aloud. When those situations occur, I do my best to stay calm through deep breathing exercises. They help to calm my nerves. Additionally, I’ve found that manuscripting, or writing down what I want to say verbatim, does not work well for me. That requires me to read aloud and make it sound natural and flowing. I tend to stutter my way through it. Instead, I use bullet points with ideas and themes. The bullet points keep me focused and on track while allowing my mind to fill in the gaps.

What would you say to another person who stutters wanting to join the military?
I would say go for it. If you want to serve your country, there is a pathway open to you. It may not be easy, but it is possible, and of course, very rewarding. Don’t let your fears hold you back.

Would you prepare differently if you had the chance to do it again?
I’m not sure that I could have prepared differently. The basic training phase is the most difficult. There is no access to SLPs, medication, or speech fluency devices. If you are using any of these, you’ll need to learn to do without for at least a year (basic training, combat schools, job schools). Once you get out in the Fleet Marine Force (what is commonly referred to as ‘being in the Marines’), you can resume any medication or therapy (at no cost to’s all covered). But until then, I would prepare by learning as much as you can about the Marine Corps. There’s a saying that luck is when preparedness meets opportunity. Being armed with extensive knowledge will go a long way to making the basic training experience easier. Also, I would offer that sometimes during hard experiences, we tend to focus our attention on getting out of the situation, or maybe what life will be like afterward. In the terms of basic training, we think about life outside of bootcamp...the things we’ll do, friends we will see, and the places we’ll go. In a sense, we stop focusing on the “now” and think about the future. I would argue this is the wrong approach. Basic training (bootcamp) is only 3 months. It seems like an eternity when you’re going through it, but it’s no more than a brief interlude in your life. I look back on 20 years in the Marines and wonder where the time went. So, while you’re in bootcamp, focus 100 percent of your effort on what you’re doing in the moment. Learn all you can. Become the best Marine possible. Don’t focus on the outside environment. I promise that basic training will go much faster that way.

How can people connect with you?
I’m on FB and Instagram as @jordanrnorthrup. Also, my book, The War Inside: Finding Victory over Alcohol, can be found on Amazon. Email is Please reach out! I want to help as many PWS as I can!

During his time in the service, Jordan traveled extensively for training and deployments. He was been stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Base Quantico, and the Pentagon. For training, he went to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Base 29 Palms, Iraq (Al-Anbar Province) and Afghanistan twice (Kandahar, Kabul).

Jordan has three combat deployments. He deployed to Iraq with 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment (3/2 - an infantry battalion), serving as the platoon commander of the Motor Transport Platoon. He commanded 75 Marines whose mission was to execute convoys (resupply, troop transport, detainee transport), mounted patrols, and route clearance. In the seven months they were deployed, his platoon executed 235 combat missions, and he personally commanded 115 of them. They were involved in firefights, IED explosions, and routinely took incoming mortar fire. Thankfully, none of his Marines were wounded or killed.

During his second deployment, he was assigned to Combat Logistics Battalion 24, part of the 24th Marine Corps Expeditionary Unit. Their assignment was to deploy to Kandahar, Afghanistan, and engage the Taliban in combat operations. His role during this deployment was the primary staff position of Logisitics Officer, the senior logistics advisor to the Commanding Officer. It was his responsibility to coordinate and sustain all battalion logistics efforts across the range of combat operations. He was deployed for a total of eight months.

His last deployment was for one year to Kabul, Afghanistan. He was serving at the Pentagon at the time. A quota came down the chain of command for a logistics officer to deploy to support Task Force Spotlight. The chain of command selected Jordan for the role, and he deployed soon thereafter. Once in country, their Task Force’s mission was to organize, train, and regulate the 3rd party security contractor companies in country, which provided security to bases and other facilities around the country. These companies routinely hired Afghans from the local economy. As such, there wasn’t much regulation or oversight. His Task Force provided what was needed to maintain good order and discipline.

From the Spring 2024 Magazine